Herbs, Etc. Warehouse and Farm Tour

A door opens and we are inside a bustling warehouse that is the manufacturing facility of Herbs, Etc., located next to Meow Wolf on Rufina Circle in Santa Fe. Two of us from the Co-op, along with many from other natural foods stores across the country, have been invited on a tour of the establishment and on a farm tour, to follow.

Donning hairnets and lab coats for cleanliness, we are led around one warehouse where herbs are received, identified, cleaned, chopped and stored. We are led past distilling containers, where water mixed with alcohol slowly drips through crushed, dried herbs, and finally, past conveyor belts of bottles, being mechanically filled, capped and sealed. While machines do much of the work, there are employees overseeing the accuracy of the machines and ensuring the uniformity of each product. Each product batch is tested to ensure its purity.

The owner of Herbs, Etc., Daniel Gagnon, joins us and hands around pieces of dried Echinacea stems. When placed on our tongues, the stems tingle, as a sign of their immune enhancing properties. We move on with him to the Tesuque Pueblo Farm where at least fifteen of the herbs for the company are grown. There, we have discussions about the science behind the benefits of specific herbs, receive a farm tour, and meet the Tesuque Pueblo Farm manager, Emigdio Ballon.

It is an honor to be shown around the farm, the seed bank, and through the greenhouses and fields. We are shown various crops of oat, St. John’s wort, rosehip, and stinging nettle. A few of us volunteer to be stung with Stinging Nettle and watch the blisters that form on our arms dissipate under the ministration of crushed Plantain leaves that counteract the histamine effects.

On the tour, we talked extensively about Osha, an herb native to the southern Rocky Mountain region. Osha grows best in what is typically regarded as “bad” soil and between 9,000 and 11,000 feet of elevation. Osha is, therefore, one of the herbs sold by Herbs Etc. that is not grown on the Tesuque Pueblo Farm. Recently listed on United Plant Savers as a species at risk for over- harvest, Osha has been the subject of at least one notable and ongoing research study.

The study tracks the residual effects of overharvest on plots of osha growing naturally in National Forests. It is important to note that Daniel Gagnon has been instrumental in helping with this study, along with United Plant Savers, the Forest Service, The University of Kansas, and the American Herbal Products Association. To date, the study has shown that Osha is incredibly resilient to harvest, and even plots harvested of 100% of the root have begun to repopulate within three years,* an encouraging sign for conservation efforts.

Through the research, sale and promotion of native plants, Herbs Etc. is bringing awareness to these important crops, potentially helping to save them while also minimizing the detrimental effects of their harvest on the surrounding environment. As a company that markets herbs as healing therapies, it is good to know that Herbs Etc. is holding human health and the health of our natural resources equally in high regard.

 ***

https://durangoherald.com/articles/181700

It’s 9:15 am and a quiet hum is audible from where we stand, in an apiary, in an orchard in the Arroyo Seco neighborhood of Taos, New Mexico. We are here just as the morning is beginning to lift which, we have been told, is a calm time for the bees. Once the afternoon heat hits and the threatening rain clouds roll in, the bees will be worked into a frenzy. Regardless of the morning calm, we are directed to put on bee suits that cover our upper bodies and our faces. This is the home site of Taos Bee, an apiary and skin care company that continues the ancient but often forgotten tradition of using bee products for skin care. A few of us from the Los Alamos Co-op have been invited to come for a tour.

Moira, the owner and bee keeper assures us that the bees really are friendly and that they will mostly be minding their own business as we intrude into their homes. Adequately covered and curious, we proceed, following Moira to watch her open the hives and check in on her hard-working girls. The skin care products for which Taos Bee is known feature pure, minimally processed, honey, propolis and wax. Today, Moira will show us her methods of harvesting and preparing the products.

Moira got her start in beekeeping fifteen years ago as an organic farmer. While acting as a caretaker for her mother, Moira realized first-hand how the honey and propolis she applied soothed and protected her mother’s skin from drying out and infection. It was because of this experience that she began her skin care line. Taos Bee has expanded over the years to include Apiaries in three different locations around the town. The company supplies several Cooperative Markets, including the Los Alamos Co-op, as well as the Taos Farmers Market and continues to grow.

While the company continues to expand, Moira remains firm in her conservative methods of harvesting. She takes from the bees just what she needs to continue her work. This means only harvesting honey and propolis about once a month from different hives. She will stop harvesting completely around mid-August to allow the bees to build up a store of honey for the winter. During the winter, bees do not leave the hive to forage and have to survive on what they collect over the summer.

In this Apiary, there are twenty-three hives and most of them are of a top bar model. They are single-storied, rectangular in shape and have wooden removable bars across the top. The bees attach and hang their combs vertically, from each of the wooden bars in a process called “knitting.” Propolis coats the combs and top bars, securing them down, “bee glue” Moira explains. To collect the propolis, Moira gently scrapes it from the sides. Propolis is a bee product that, along with honey, is used in most of Taos Bee’s merchandise. Propolis is made from the sap of trees, and while varying flora will result in different compositions of propolis, all propolis is made up of polyphenols, specifically flavonoids, which are produced by plants and are thought to have beneficial properties.

To collect the honey, she cuts honey comb from the wooden bar and mashes it in a bucket. After the comb is mashed, she allows the honey to drain from the comb through a sieve for hours. This process separates the wax comb from the honey. She leaves the drained wax comb outside near the hives for the bees to pick clean of the remainder of pollen and honey. The cleaned wax is then placed into a solar melting box, where it is gently heated by a solar panel and melted into wax bars for easy storage. These wax bars are ready to be made into Taos Bee balms, soaps and candles.

Near the end of our visit, Moira encourages us to gather some of the fresh apricots laying around under one of her many fruit trees. They are delicious. The apiary is surrounded by an orchard. Apple and apricot trees provide, even on dry years like this one, at least a modest amount of fruit blossoms for the bees to forage from. In return, the fruit blossoms are pollinated and able to bear fruit. As we leave, laden with the Co-op’s order of Taos Bee products and a handful of apricots, we are reminded of the many ways that bees are useful to us and crucial to the world in which we live.

 

Please submit the survey by April 7th, 2018, to receive a discount coupon that can be used anytime during the month of May. The coupon is good for savings on a single shopping trip: 10% off for members who spend less than $150, 15% off for members who spend more than $150, and 20% off for members who spend more than $200, and 10% off for non-members.  The coupon is valid through April 30th The discount applies to regularly priced items, and we do not compound discounts.

Please help us save trees, and click here for the electronic survey. Paper surveys are available at the customer-service desk and must be returned to the Co+op by April 7th. Limit one survey and one discount per household.

Your input is important to us. The Co+op uses the survey to assess its performance in several areas including customer satisfaction and communication. We value the insight into our members’ shopping patterns and demographics. We also use the data to report to Co+op stakeholders how well we as an organization adhere to our customer-service policy, mission, and vision. These reports are presented to the Board of Directors in March and April and are published on the store’s website once accepted by the Board.

For more information contact General Manager Tim Morrison at 505-695-1579 or gm@losalamos.coop.

Do you have ideas about how to improve the Co+op? Are you passionate about making the store an essential part of our community? Now is the time to start thinking about serving on the Co+op’s nine-person Board of Directors. Voting doesn’t start until the Annual Meeting on May 2nd, but there are a few things prospective candidates must do before then.

To qualify, a board candidate must be a Los Alamos Co+operative Market member in good standing for the four months prior to the election. Candidates declare their intent to run by reading the Candidate Information and emailing their responses to the “Board Candidate Questions” to secretary@losalamos.coop by March 28.

The Board wants to encourage interested candidates to obtain a good understanding of board duties and responsibilities. To that end, it suggests that candidates take any or all of the following steps in addition to responding to the Board Candidate Questions:

  • Read the Board Candidate Information Packet (answering the questions included here is mandatory)
  • Attend a board meeting prior to the election (the next one is Wednesday, March 22, at 6 p.m. at ProjectY)
  • Meet with a current board director for an informal discussion about board duties and responsibilities

Although the steps outlined above are optional, ballots will indicate whether or not candidates have completed them.

The Board looks forward to receiving your application!

In February, Co+op investors should have received a letter previewing the store’s 2016 financial and operational results and addressing the repayment of member loans. If you are an investor and you did not receive the letter, please email board@losalamos.coop, and we will verify your mailing address.

To those investors who did receive the letter, thank you for responding so promptly. The Board appreciates your continued support of the store.

Dear Co+op member-owners,

The Los Alamos Cooperative Market Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Tim Morrison has accepted the position of permanent general manager.

Morrison was named interim general manager on June 1, 2016, and has been working on improving customer service, staff morale, and sales during the past seven months. At the board meeting on Thursday, January 26, 2017, the Board of Directors voted unanimously to offer the permanent general manager position to Morrison.

Morrison, who served as the store manager of La Montañita’s Gallup location in 2008 and as LACM’s front end manager from 2011–2015, brings a wealth of co-op and management experience to LACM. “I’m honored that the Board has confidence in me to continue to grow sales and make the Co+op profitable,” he says.

The Board appreciates our customers’ continued dedication to the Co+op during these past almost six years. Our goal has always been for the Co+op to be a place where people in our community want to shop, work, and spend time. We look forward to embarking on the next steps in LACM’s journey with you, and we welcome your positive interactions and feedback with Tim Morrison as your new general manager.

Sincerely,
Los Alamos Cooperative Market Board of Directors

I want to share some of the recent experiences I’ve had as a new board member and go behind the scenes a little bit to encourage some of our members to consider running for one of the upcoming board vacancies this spring.

Like many members, I was genuinely concerned for the Co+op and some of the challenges I saw affecting business during the past few years. As a member and customer, I had some very basic exposure to some of the issues affecting the staff, general manager, vendors etc.

Yet, at the same time I was always impressed with the level of commitment I found at every level of the organization. Obviously there were times when morale was low but the core loyalty to the Co+op as a business and the co-op ideals have always been impressive to me.

When I was approached to volunteer for the board, I was pretty reluctant because like everybody else on the planet I’m busy with work, family, and life in general. However,  the more I talked with staff, members, customers, and board members I began to think I might have an opportunity to contribute.

That said, I had some real doubts about my ability to be effective in a group decision-making environment that I thought was focused on reaching consensus.

Six months into this what I have experienced has been very rewarding, and like the other co-op constituencies the other board members I work with are an amazingly committed and loyal group of people.

A little side note here: This past summer, I was traveling to Minneapolis, and General Manager Tim Morrison asked me to make a trip to a well-known and high-performing co-op called The Wedge. I stopped in and got some dinner at The Wedge hot bar and was very pleased with my overall experience with the store, staff, and quality of food. But my main take away from that visit was how amazingly blessed we are to have our little Co+op here in Los Alamos. From my perspective, our store was equal if not better in overall food quality, staff awesomeness, and focus on co-op ideals.

So I think it’s very important to thank everyone involved in conceiving, starting, funding, building, and sustaining this little gem we have here. I also want to encourage you to consider joining the board in this next election. The election takes place at our annual meeting in April; four board positions will be open.

I know you have doubts like I did. But I realized that I have something to contribute and like you I have a unique perspective. Our board thrives (I now know) on this diversity and our Co+op is thriving because everyone involved is committed to it’s growth.

Please email me and let me know you’d like to join our board of directors. I’ll send you the election details and get you started. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you!

—Steve Snapp, board member

The Co+op Board of Directors and staff are excited to announce the addition of an auxiliary board member. As a non-voting staff representative, Jake Svard will attend all board meetings and provide valuable insight into staff views and concerns.

“In this new staff-elected, volunteer capacity I will represent the staff by ensuring employee comments and concerns are relayed to the board to continually promote increased transparency and communication for our store,” he says.

“I love food and sharing my love of food with others,” says Jen Bennett, who was hired as the Co+op’s marketing coordinator in January. Previously, Bennett was a marketing and community liaison for Whole Foods Market in Silicon Valley.

At LACM, Bennett’s primary goal is to increase awareness of the store around town. “I’d like to help the store become even more of a destination,” she says, noting that her favorite thing about the Co+op is the sense of community—and the “decent coffee beans at a fair price.”

Bennett has only been in town for four months and has quickly come to feel at home in New Mexico. “I love the hiking and the feeling of being nestled in the mountains,” she says. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, canning, crafting, and working out at the Y. Bennett also works part-time at the Los Alamos Historical Society.

Bennett, who has lived in western Massachusetts and Martha’s Vineyard, also likes the store’s smell. “I can’t believe that the Co+op here smells like all of the co-ops in New England have smelled for the past 40 years!”

That’s just one sign that the Co+op is doing something right—and Bennett will make sure the community knows it.